Re: dueling ettiquette? or tea party manners?

Chris Lees (
Sat, 17 Apr 1999 16:37:32 +0100

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 16:37:32 +0100
From: Chris Lees <>
Subject: Re: dueling ettiquette? or tea party manners?

Jake wrote :

> I dunno, Alex. I have considered your points on this long before you ever
> made them. Its not a closed issue for me, but rather an evolving rules of
> engagement. I try to view this as a performance, there is some degree of
> "putting on" and hence some degree of conscious control. I can play it both
> ways. But its when I start forgetting that it is a performance that things
> tend to start turning really ugly. For that reason I used to act extra
> polite and gracious in EM and bulletin board exchanges, and I still do when I
> think it is valuable to the dynamics of the discourse.
> Unfortunately not everybody respects that and few will reciprocate
> completely on the one hand which can lead to some pretty sour disintegrations
> of the discussion, and on the other hand involving yourself more personally
> can lead to more extensive discussions if done in a measured and controlled
> way. I think this initial desire for graciousness must be a reflection of
> the degree of control necessary for "real life" exchanges (perhaps even the
> very real possibilities for danger though rarely acknowleged consciously).
> Certainly appreciating and being capable of employing such graces is still a
> valuable aspect even in cyberspace.
> But over the years, I have come to the realization that the dynamics are
> just different, like it or not. I have come to recognize that some aspect of
> ad hominem is inevitable to most cyberspace discussions that people care a
> lot about. Its not pretty, but I have found that its true. In cyberspace,
> there are just fewer restraints, and with fewer restraints it tends to get
> oddly more personal in some respects even with some of the depersonalizing
> aspects that cyberspace presents.
> So lately I have been a little more experimental in my approach. I have
> embraced the inevitiability of ad hominem on the one hand, and on the other I
> try to control it and use it to shape the dynamics of a discussion.
> Fundamentally unadulterated ad hominem is irrational, and one should never
> pretend that it isn't. But I think it is almost as bad to try to act
> unrealistically angelic about it.
> That's why if I sense that my response is getting a little personal, I try
> to force myself to couple that with other messages and points that I see as
> more rational. The pure and unadulterated ad hominem that is not connected
> to something more legitimate is really pointless and pathetically crude IMO
> no matter how cleverly put. Examples might be "I think the mistake was mine,
> in that I made the error of attributing an intelligence and ability to you
> which you do not possess." and "I don't think you are a stickler for
> anything. You're a sloppy mind spouting sloppy nonsense."
> See there is no point to those. They are just non-refuatable ad hominems.
> There is nothing of substance to argue with. In real life, the cleverness
> might be more prominent and interesting - certainly harder to ignore and more
> physical performance involved, but in cyberspace it just doesn't engage like
> it unavoidably would IRL. An unadulterated ad hominem, no matter how clever
> just isn't as interesting in cyberspace - it is just too easy to ignore. If
> I wanted pure cleverness, I might start reading those jokes that people keep
> EMing me on a daily basis.
> If and when I find something like that in my messages, I either excise them
> out, or I connect them to something else. If you present somebody with ad
> hominem undertones it should be coupled with something that can be rationally
> attacked. It's far more sporting. It gives the ad hominem the status of
> refutablity despite the non-rational personal substance that is attatched to
> it.
> Example "'Scientism' is just a jackass word to be legitimizing,". You can
> clearly see the ad hominem undertones of this statement. I am impliedly
> saying that somebody who would use the word, is a jackass. But we have
> *something*else* to talk about other than the possiblity that the other
> person is a jackass - we can talk about the use of the word "scientism" and
> whether it can be used for more legitimate reasons. There is something that
> we CAN talk about rationally. If I just called someone a jackass, that would
> be a pretty short and pointless conversation. But connected to something
> more rational, it provides a principle of refutability. I guess the
> principle that I think is at work is that if you are going to take shots at
> someone else, you out to at least do it in the context of a less personal
> point providing them with targets to legitimately shoot back at, otherwise
> they are very unsporting and cowardly shots.
> I know, that perhaps you find it apalling that I would embrace the more
> personal and ad hominem aspects of online communication. We tend to think
> that "flame wars" are a bad thing. I simply view them as inevitable, and
> only truly bad when done in a cowardly way.
> Generally I don't get personal just for the hell of it - if I do, it is
> generally because I involve myself in issues both intellectually and
> emotionally. Actually I think everybody does, but most try to behave in
> denial of that reality. Of course I could be more dispassionate and gentle
> in my approach, but I recognize both the likelihood that the facade may
> detiorate especially when not reciprocated, as well as the probablity that
> expressing myself more personally will compell me to advocate my position
> with the energy that it deserves. The problem with coming in with a facade
> like that, is that when it breaks down as it almost invariably will, I tend
> to get far uglier, as my suppressed sense of commitment turns to indignation.
> I don't hold my approach to be a necessarily inflexible mode of behavior -
> in fact I try to experiment with all sorts of ranges of verbal behavior while
> avoiding the unseemlier extremes. This just seems to be a mode of behavior
> that has evolved. Perhaps you don't like it? I am certainly open to hear
> your criticism of it. But within recent months has dawned on me that trying
> to act unrealistically angelic in my discourses has lead to far more
> deteriorations and far less interesting discussions than taking a more
> realistically partisan and human attitude about it. I think the real effort
> should be in developing more realistic and conscious rules of engagement -
> perhaps a sort of dueling ettiquette rather than more lighthearted angelic
> tea party manners.
> Since you seem to have been the most upset about my approach, I would be
> interested to hear your thoughts on this.

May I enquire what any of the above has to do with memetics ?
Or with memes, or with science ? Or anything relevant ?

It seems to me your over-inflated adolescent ego compels you to
spout ridiculous self-indulgent nonsense, as if all the world is just
waiting to hear Jake's latest ' profound insight '.
Jeez. All I perceive from what you have written, is an infantile effort at
attention seeking, which swings to paranoia about Dennet and Dawkins
being closet buddhists intent upon subverting world civilisation, and
now you are using this list as if it was some kind of personal diary.
Perhaps you should engage a therapist, and spare us your angelic
discourse. Maybe come back when you've grown up a little ?


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